FOr the Premier League to evolve and continue to excite the masses, it needs new ideas and philosophies to help English football move forward. Brighton’s new coach, Roberto de Zerbe, is the latest innovator to make an immediate impact, impressing fans, coaches and critics with his style of play.
I didn’t know much about De Zerbi before he arrived, so I tried to figure out how it fit in with Brighton’s philosophy, cleverly built over many years. It’s a systematic process and it really does seem like another smart appointment.
The predecessor of the Italian, Graham Potter, discovered it in Amex, as his former club Chelsea crush 4-1 Wolves will be wary of the additional threat posed by Brighton on Saturday.
It’s rare for a head coach to come to one side to build on success. A change is usually required because the previous incumbent was fired due to poor condition. De Zerbi walks into Potter’s dressing room and joining a successful club could be tough. It is very easy to spot and improve the flaws on the falter side, but improving the good side can be much more difficult. Fortunately, De Zerbi brings with him a level of innovation that has aided the transition.
Against Chelsea, midfielder Pascal Gross started at right-back. De Zerbe would have identified Gross as having the potential to play as a right-back in his system. He knows how to explain the role to make sure the players know the reason behind it and how they can implement it for the benefit of the team. Brings greater flexibility with the team. He is helped by the fact that Potter frequently uses players outside of their positions, keeping them open to different ideas from their new coach, something he uses to his advantage.
De Zerbi is taking a big risk in the way he wants his team to play from behind and is looking to create tailored phases of play. Defenders want to receive the ball in deeper areas, sometimes close to their goal, and use their technical abilities to withstand the pressure and find a way out. His defense are his main players in terms of reinforcement; He wants to suck the pressure off the opponent, draw them into a false sense of security, and once the pressure is hit, they can move the ball up the field quickly, delivering it to their key players in one-on-one.
Against Chelsea, he made it clear that Kaworu Mituma can isolate Trevoh Shaluba and that Sully March can do the same with Marc Cucurella. Chelsea thought they could get the ball back with their high pressure on the field, but Brighton kept running away.
Outside of possession, Brighton differ slightly in how much they press compared to Potter’s leadership, but there are still elements of their defensive structure that they need to work on due to the shift in terms of intensity.
De Zerbi is brave and seems like an interesting character that Brighton fans will accept and love. It’s always exciting to see a manager come in and change gears at the club. He is methodical in how he wants to achieve his tactical goals, similar to Pep Guardiola. They will choose one player or region to target within their philosophy.
Like Manchester City, Brighton are very aggressive in how they press, but they develop differently. City do not play as risky as De Zerbie with Brighton. The first two games I thought it was too dangerous but that’s because it’s not what I’m used to.
Brighton has highlighted someone who can work within the philosophy they have built over many years and put it in a new direction. This is exciting. If you bring in the same directors who repeat the same process, it can be very boring for the masses. You see more twists and turns with De Zerbi. I like to see new ideas and look at what managers are doing and learning, while wondering if I would do the same.
Football does not stand still. When Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp arrived, the other coaches needed to adapt and improve to try to counter their brilliance. It will be an exciting challenge for all the coaches who will face De Zerbe.
“The best coaches are thieves,” said Sean Dechy, and he’s right. They travel the world to learn from others, selecting the best ideas to shape their style and philosophy before implementing them in a team. British trainers have traveled the world. Potter honed his skills in Sweden, Brendan Rodgers studied coaches in Spain and Eddie Howe spent time observing Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid.
It’s good that the Premier League, managers and teams adapt and evolve. I like the different twists and turns, otherwise things would get boring. We need a competitive advantage and problem-solving. De Zerbe came to the Premier League to test himself. Now the task of his rivals is to push him to his limits.